From Commission to Social Movement: Research-led Design in Action

Al Sharif, Haneen
Omar, Hadeer
Duignan, Patricia
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In May 2013 the Center for Research Design and Entrepreneurship received a commission from the company Maersk Oil Qatar to design a brochure about the proper installation and use of child car seats. The team tasked with creating the brochure began with a question: how can design change peoples’ behavior? This question was the first step toward the quick evolution and exponential expansion of the project from a single brochure on child car seats to a nation-wide campaign and social movement encompassing all aspects of road safety.

In Qatar traffic accidents account for one out of every eight deaths, and are responsible for more deaths than cancer or cardiovascular diseases. The dangerous conditions on Qatari roads are the product of a lack of education about safe driving practices, in some cases a lack of experience, and widespread distracted driving behaviors. The need to address this issue is vital for Qatar, however, it does present a complex set of challenges, including what can be done to effect changes in peoples’ behavior.

The Center for Research Design and Entrepreneurship at VCUQatar began with ideas for the commissioned brochure on child car seats as a foundation and turned to both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to answer key questions about changing behaviors and the impact of design. Working with psychologists at VCUQatar, the team combined design thinking and research to develop a series of pilot projects, which led to the development of the “ONE SECOND” campaign. The government of Qatar has adopted this campaign and the team is now responsible for deploying the project nationwide.

This panel discusses the evolution of the project from small and focused to large scale and widespread, and the integration of research and design at each step. We will also delve into the “ONE SECOND” campaign as an example of a successful integrative-interdisciplinary research project that demonstrated a practical model that could be applied for any future social problem.